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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Birmingham Beat QPR 2-1

Birmingham 2 QPR 1..HT 1-1

Photos from the game (Birmingham's Perspective!) - Photos

Assistant Blues boss Eric Black praised the players for their "dogged and hard-working" performance, following their 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
Blues created by far the better of the chances and could have been out of sight by half time, but they had Cameron Jerome to thank for netting the winner shortly after he joined the action from the substitutes' bench.
"It was a dogged and hard working victory without being the spectacle we would have liked," said Black.
"Queens Park Rangers made it difficult for us, but it was a vital result.
At 1-1 and 2-1 the game is never over.
"We created enough chances to win the game handsomely but until you get that elusive third goal it is always going to be edgy.
"But I thought the determination and the work rate of our players and their desire to make sure QPR didn't score was exceptional.
"When you look at the previous five games you can't expect your strikers to score three or four goals every time they go onto the pitch but I thought their contribution was still very good and everybody stuck to their task under difficult circumstances."
Turning to the goals, Black revealed that Matt Upson's opener had been well planned to counteract the visitors' zonal marking system at dead balls.
"We'd spoken about it yesterday because Queens Park Rangers go zonal with their defence," said Black.
"Jaidi and Upson were keen to attack it, and instead of whipping the ball in McSheffrey was setting them up a little bit and it certainly worked, because it was a fantastic header by Upson.
"With Jerome's goal it was his first touch, or certainly not long after he came on.
"It's great to have that competition.
"I felt slightly disappointed for DJ because he had worked extremely hard and played well against Southend and he had an opportunity today just before he was taken off.
"But I think Jerome will always contribute.
"He's a striker and wants to score goals, but I think he also contributes in other ways by getting us up the park and with his physical presence and pace unsettling people.
"Now that he's scored a goal I think it will certainly help his confidence."
With Blues' immediate rivals faltering today, they have now opened up an eight-point gap at the top of the table, but with games coming thick and fast, Black says that Blues will not be resting on their laurels.
"Eight points is a nice cushion to have but with the amount of games that come in this division it can be swallowed up very quickly.
"But if we show the same form, desire and commitment to the cause, hopefully we'll carry on winning games.
"We're still a long way away from where we want to be and there are still a lot of games to be won and lost between now and the end of the season, so we're not taking anything for granted. " Birmingham

OFFICIAL SITE - JOHN GREGORY'S COMMENTSThe gaffer felt his side gave Birmingham a fight, but the killer touch was missing at St Andrews.
John Gregory had seen his side battle bravely against a top of the league Birmingham, with Lee Cook scoring a stunning goal to level proceedings in the first half.
But Cameron Jerome's winner in the second half left Gregory feeling frustrated.
"It was a great goal from Cookie, I was a bit worried about playing him as he only played three days ago after being laid off with injury
"I'm not sure the players believed they could get anything from the game even though I did. We were doing all of the pressing but lacked a bit of quality which is frustrating.
"But all in all we defended well and looked strong.
"Although there was a lot of pressure there weren't many clear opening which we had all expected.
"We thought there was a suspicion of off-side for their second goal, but I've been assured by the officials that one of our lads was playing him onside.
"It was a big crowd here today which would have helped them and it was a party atmopshere before we even kicked a ball. QPR

The table after today's game
Cryt Pal 25 30
Luton 25 29
QPR 25 27
Barnsley 25 26
Hull 25 21
Leeds 25 21
Southend 25 17

Birmingham Official Site - Match Report
Blues ensured the 100 year St Andrews celebrations went off in style with a gritty 2-1 victory against QPR. Hopefully the sell-out crowd here to witness the victory have finally put paid to the Gypsy's curse that has haunted the club.
Matthew Upson sent the League leaders on their way before Lee Cook drew level. Cameron Jerome scored his first goal at St Andrews moments after coming on as substitute to seal the victory. This victory saw Blues increase their lead further at the top as they moved past the 50 point mark with the other sides at the top all faltering.
Steve Bruce had the pleasure of naming an unchanged team from the side that demolished Southend at the weekend. The Blues team came out to a rousing rendition of Keep Tight On with the Tilton Road spelling out '100' in celebration of this historic centennial.
Blues almost got off to a dream start on 75 seconds following some neat build up play. Stephen Kelly picked out Nicklas Bendtner with a perfectly floated cross that the Dane failed to capitalise on, misjudging the flight and heading high over the bar. QPR were quickly putting Blues under pressure and it the 7th minute Lee Cook's fizzing cross eluded the Blues defence with Dexter Blackstock missing at the far post under pressure from Matthew Upson. Despite Blues looking the more comfortable it was QPR who were the first to test the keeper when Jimmy Smith hit a curling shot from the corner of the box that Maik Taylor saved easily. A minute later DJ Campbell sent Bendtner clear down the middle. The Blues striker only had the keeper to beat but failed to beat Simon Royce with his st before Damion Stewart recovered to knock the loose ball out for a corner. In the 16th minute keeper Royce took time out to throw one of the many paper aeroplanes landing on the pitch. The QPR keeper continued to be in the thick of it racing out of his area to thwart the advancing Campbell who turned the wrong way with an empty goal behind him. The paper planes continued to rain onto the pitch and the keeper once again had time to partake in the fun. In the 21st minute Blues took the lead through Matthew Upson in spectacular fashion. The move started when Stewart hacked down DJ Campbell on the touchline and was fortunate to escape a caution. Gary McSheffrey swung in the free-kick to Upson just inside the penalty area and the Blues centre half made no mistake with a bullet header that flew into the top corner. The Blues were turning on the style now and Sadler curled in a cross to McSheffrey whose diving header flew inches wide of the post.

It was all level in the 31st minute when Lee Cook bagged a controversial goal against the run of play. In the build up to the goal Marc Bircham clearly handled the ball but the referee ignored appeals. QPR continued the attack with the play switching to the left towards Lee Cook. The QPR midfielder cut inside and hit a shot that took a deflection helping it on its way past Taylor. Two minutes later McSheffrey had a goal ruled out for offside. In the 36th minute DJ Campbell almost carved out a chance for himself when he turned his markers 20 yards out before unleashing a dipping shot that the keeper tipped over the bar. Blues kept the pressure on with the ball bobbling around from the corner before Bendtner rose high above the defence to head straight at the keeper. In the 39th minute Mauro Milanese was booked for kicking the ball away after fouling Bendtner. Blues almost grabbed the lead again in the dying seconds of injury time. Johnson fired the ball across the face of goal and Stephen Clemence just failed to get there as QPR cleared the danger.
Half-time Blues 1-1 QPR
Blues were first to create chances in the second half. A surging run by Bendtner saw the Dane flick the ball through to McSheffrey. The Blues winger hit a near post cross to Campbell but the keeper got there first before spilling the ball and eventually conceding a corner. McSheffrey curled the corner over to Bendtner who failed to keep his header down as it sailed over the bar. Two minutes later Lee Cook picked out Dexter Blackstock out with a curling free-kick but his glancing header went just over the bar. Both managers made a change to their respective sides in the 59th minute. On came Cameron Jerome for DJ Campbell and for QPR Marc Bircham was replaced by Stefan Bailey. Blues were back in front in the 62nd minute through substitute Cameron Jerome. Bendtner threaded the ball through to McSheffrey who unselfishly rolled the ball across to Jerome who having only been on the pitch two minutes guided the ball home. Radhi Jaidi had a golden chance to increase the lead in the 66th minute when McSheffrey's free-kick picked out the unmarked Tunisian but he finished with a woeful header wide. Matthew Upson went close in the 71st minute when he headed just over from another pinpoint McSheffrey corner. Two minutes later McSheffrey went close again with a trademark free-kick that had the keeper beaten but was inches over the bar. In the 75th minute McSheffrey was left requiring treatment to a head wound following a high boot by Stewart as hooked the ball clear. In the 76th minute John Gregory replaced Milanese with Martin Rowlands. McSheffrey returned to the fray with a new shirt with no number on but there was no mistaking him as he tried a shot from the edge of the centre circle seconds later. In the 81st minute Dexter Blackstock was replaced by Ray Jones. Almost immediately Blues were on the attack but Clemence picked the wrong option of Bendtner who ran into a wall of Black shirts. The Dane tried to make amends seconds later with yet another Blues header that flew over the bar. In the last minute of normal time there was the worrying sight of Matthew Upson being replaced by Sebastian Larsson as the board went up to show 4 minutes of injury time. The curse almost had the last laugh with some woeful refereeing almost allowing QPR back into the game. In particular a blatant trip on Jerome as he was clean through was the pick of the bunch a foul that left the striker requiring treatment.Former Villa manager John Gregory continued the bad feeling not allowing Fabrice Muamba to replace the injured Cameron Jerome. Nicklas Bendtner picked up a booking in the last minute. The Blues fans can look forward to cotinuing a Happy Xmas after this victory. Attendance: 29,431 Birmingham

A stunning Lee Cook goal was not enough to prevent Birmingham running out as 2-1 winners at St Andrews.
Matthew Upson opened the scoring after 21 minutes, but it was Lee Cook's equaliser which stole the show. Not only was it an inspired strike, it had the more valuable bonus of levelling proceedings.
But it was an inspired second half substitution which saw Cameron Jerome brought onto the field and scoring within two minutes of his arrival that won the game for the league leaders.
Rangers had done more than pull their weight throughout though, despite Birmingham looking like the heavyweights in the attack.
John Gregory aimed to keep Birmingham at bay with a defensive line up. Marcus Bignot, Mauro Milanese, Zesh Rehman, Damion Stewart and Michael Mancienne all started at St Andrews.
Up front, Paul Furlong claimed his first start of the season alongside Dexter Blackstock. Marc Bircham also came in for a start in midfield alongside Lee Cook and Jimmy Smith.
Despite the defensive nature of the Rangers line-up, the Blues wasted no time in venturing on the attack.
Gary McSheffrey cut past Marc Bircham on the edge of the box and squared the ball across goal, only to find a lack of support from his team mates. Nicklas Bendtner then headed over moments later to prove that the home side meant business.
But Rangers had their share of the chances in the opening exchanges when Cook put through one of his telling through balls for Dexter Blackstock to run onto.
The front man surged down on the far post, but with the ball just carrying wide he was unable to gain any purchase.
Bendtner then capitalised on Cook's lost possession and strode towards goal looking certain to open the scoring, but Royce managed to do just enough to parry his initial shot before Bendtner's follow up drifted wide of the upright.
After pressing Rangers time and again, the Blues finally broke the deadlock through an impressive Matthew Upson header. Gary McSheffrey sent the freekick in from the left channel and the former Arsenal defender rose to head home from 10 yards out.
But less than ten minutes later, Lee Cook underlined just how much Rangers have missed him recently with an absolutely superb strike. Paul Furlong squared to the tricky winger and he twisted and turned Stephen Kelly before unleashing an absolute belter into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.
DJ Campbell then sent an impressive shot goalwards but Royce was equal to it. Suddenly the game was full of chances beyond the superlative.
Rangers survived a late scare on the half time whistle as the ball skittled past the face of goal and made it into the break with the scores still deadlocked.
The second half began with wave after wave of Birmingham attack with Royce having to be in inspired form to keep the Blues at bay.
John Gregory then made his first change of the afternoon, replacing Bircham with Stefan Bailey. Blues also exchanged DJ Campbell for Cameron Jerome and the former Cardiff man had an instant impact, putting Birmingham back in front.
McSheffrey squared past the committed Royce and Jerome had the simple task of firing down the middle.
Martin Rowlands then entered the field at the expense of Mauro Milanese. The midfielder immediately tested Maik Taylor with a cross from the by-line which the keeper had to be alert to.
The game had seemlingly ground to a halt at this stage with neither team eally making any breakthough on goal.
In the final minutes of the game, Birmingham refused to step up a gear having done all that as needed, and despite Rangers' best efforts, the leveller could notbe found a second time. QPR

Team Lineups:
QPR: Simon Royce, Marcus Bignot, Mauso Milanese, Zesh Rehman, Marc Bircham, Lee Cook, Damion Stewart, Paul Furlong, Dexter Blackstock, Jimmy Smith, Michael Mancienne. Subs: Nick Ward, Martin Rowlands, Stefan Bailey, Ray Jones, Jake Cole.
Bailey came on for Bircham on the hour; Rowlands on form Milanese after 75 minutes. And Jones for Blackstock after 81 minutes.
03 Milanese (75 Rowlands )
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Stephen Clemence, Gary McSheffrey, Radhi Jaidi, DJ Campbell, Matt Upson, Niclas Bendtner, Mehdi Nafti, Mat Sadler, Damien Johnson, Stephen Kelly. - Subs Colin Doyle, Cameron Jerome, Sebastian Larsson, Fabrice Muamba.

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